“She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.
But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.”
-Synopsis from StoryGraph
I wasn’t familiar with A Simple Favor until the movie came out a few years ago. I knew that I wanted to read the book first, as I usually try to do, but it took a while for me to get around to reading it.
This book was a very quick read. The chapters are very short, often just the length of a brief blog post, and almost always end on a cliffhanger. Those generally tend to be my favorite types of thrillers, so for the most part I did enjoy this book.
The synopsis mentions that the story is similar to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I only saw the movie adaptation of that book, so I can only speak to that. I would say that in theory, the storylines are similar; however, I recall the suspense and tension in Gone Girl to really be off the charts and I did not have that same feeling while reading A Simple Favor.
The book is divided into three parts. The reader is introduced to Stephanie first. She is the single mom who befriends Emily, and is instantly in awe of her and her life. Stephanie gushes about Emily on her blog, sometimes referring to her only as “E” and she shares personal details about her motherhood experience with her readers, who are primarily moms of young children.
Eventually, the reader gets a peek inside Emily’s head, and then, towards the very end of the book, the reader gets to see more of Sean, who is Emily’s husband, along with the the extent of his involvement in Emily’s disappearance.
Each perspective was interesting on its own, but they didn’t come together in a way that I hoped they would. Stephanie has a strange past with a big secret she has kept for years, which Emily attempts to exploit. Emily and Sean also share a secret, but it was revealed very early on in the story.
Around part two, Emily tells the reader firsthand all about her disappearance and what she has been involved in; if this was meant to be an “OMG” moment in any way, it didn’t strike me as such. I wasn’t intrigued and, in fact, a detail early on in the book led me to guess what was going to happen with Emily, and when I turned out to be right, I was a bit let down.
While this was a fast-paced thriller, I didn’t see the characters as being strong enough to carry the weight of the story. That is not to say that because I didn’t like the characters themselves that I ended up not liking the book, because there are many wonderful books with flawed characters. In this instance, Emily’s character was not as dynamic as I think she was painted as being by Stephanie; Emily spends a lot of time telling both Sean, and the reader, how free-spirited she is and that she has always been prone to doing wild, reckless things. What she describes after giving herself those characteristics didn’t fit. She was a manipulative person, but I didn’t see the charisma or intrigue that Stephanie and Sean are allegedly so smitten by.
By the ending, I was sure the story would wrap up in a way that would be bad for one of the main characters. It was an ending that would have made sense, given all that had happened. Instead, the ending was extremely open-ended with very few answers.
Overall, I liked that this book was a short, easy read. It kept my attention and was a fairly interesting storyline. But I probably would not recommend it unless the reader is specifically looking for a quick read.